By the time you read this, you’ll probably already know more about the immediate American political scene than I do. You may know whether Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney was the Eli Manning (or Tom Brady) of politics. Maybe you’ll have stayed up as network news and cable outfits analyzed the election into the morning hours as if this were November 4.
That, in itself, will be unprecedented. In 2004, the networks relegated (somewhat less) Super Tuesday to intermittent news updates. This time, with Charles Gibson anchoring ABC News’ five hours of coverage, it will be another “historic occasion” in the “election of our age.” There’s already been the Huckabee ambush in Iowa, the McCain return from the politically dead in New Hampshire, the fall of America’s Mayor in Florida and round-the-clock Obamania, not to speak of endless media and pollster mis-predictions, which only provided yet more riveting stories for the race of the century.
Let’s face it, for media and candidates alike Primary 2008 has been Survivor, The Amazing Race, American Gladiator, The Apprentice (“You’re fired!”) and American Idol rolled into one–and a ratings wonder as well in which nothing fails. Two testy opponents meet elbow-to-elbow in a debate in Hollywood–with the camera flicking to the star-studded audience as if it were the Oscars… Gasp! Is that really George from Seinfeld?–and no sparks fly; yet the story has wings anyway. Barack and Hillary were cordial! Were “a black man and a white woman” the “perfect future running mates”? Could they team up as “a Democratic dream ticket”? Or would they be back at each other’s throats, just the way John McCain and Mitt Romney have been?
It couldn’t matter less, not when everything in Campaign 2008 glues American eyeballs to screens without a writer in sight. Who needs on-strike vendors of fiction when a teeming crew of stand-up pundits is eternally on hand to produce political fictions at a moment’s notice? Can anyone deny that more of them have been predicting, projecting, suggesting, insinuating, bloviating and offering authoritative conclusions than at any time in our history? If that isn’t “historic,” what is, even if so many of their predictions prove wrong in the morning light?
It’s been feeding-frenzy time in medialand–and it’s your enthusiasm off which the media’s been feeding.
The Enthusiasm of the Young
Let me take a shot at creating a minor countercurrent in the flow of superduper-commentary by taking The Pledge. Here and now.
In this piece, I swear that I will not “handicap” any primary race, nor predict who is going to win Super Tuesday in either party. I will not handicap the race to the conventions. I will not speculate on who will be the vice-presidential candidate for whom in the fall, or who will win the presidency in November and enter the Oval Office on January 20, 2009, and I will not discuss polling results, nor mention a margin of error.
Don’t think this is easy. I’m just as addicted as any other red-blooded American. After all, this election is the media equivalent of a barreling train. And not Amtrak either. Think the Japanese bullet train or the French TGV. If I fall off the proverbial caboose, it’s going to hurt and yet it’s so hard not to. Just the other day–and I had already vowed to reform–after checking out a range of reliable reportage and punditry, I assured my bored wife and son, with all the authority that the political wisdom of our age bestowed on me, over dinner no less, that John Edwards would be in the election for keeps, no question about it; that he could well be the kingmaker at the Democratic convention. It was a slam dunk–until, that is, he dropped out so that history could “blaze its path”! But, hey, even if he didn’t oblige, there were always those superdelegates! They could still save the kingmaking day and keep the media express rolling right into the Democratic convention.